Chinese Pancakes: Bok Bang

There is nothing better than eating freshly made pancakes with hot mu shu chicken. Years ago, pancakes that were cooked and then frozen[ were imported from Taiwan. All one had to do was steam them. They were highly unreliable, most often fragile and easily torn. Recently, thin pancakes labeled "moo shoo wrappers" have arrived in markets. They are quite thin and elastic, and I consider them adequate to use. However, they do not even approximate those you make yourself.]

Total Time:
1 hr 2 min
Prep:
2 min
Cook:
1 hr

Yield:
12 pancakes (4 to 6 servings)
Level:
Intermediate

Ingredients
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, enriched, bleached (recommended: Pillsbury Best) plus 1/2 cup for dusting
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • Hoisin Sauce, recipe follows
  • Cantonese Fried Chicken, recipe follows
  • White parts of 6 scallions, shredded into 2-inch lengths
Directions

Put the flour in a mixing bowl. Slowly add the boiling water and stir in 1 direction with a wooden spoon. When the flour absorbs the water and cools, knead the dough into a ball and then place it on a work surface dusted with flour. Knead for about 2 minutes, until the dough is thoroughly smooth. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

On a flour-dusted work surface roll the dough into a 12-inch sausage and divide into 12 (1-inch) pieces. Flatten each piece with your palm, using more flour to dust if the dough is sticky. While working, cover the dough not in use with plastic wrap. Working with 2 pieces of dough at a time, wipe 1 side of each piece gently with sesame oil and place 1 flattened, oiled piece atop another. Roll them together into 7-inch rounds. The result is a 2-layer pancake. Repeat until 6 (2-layer) pancakes are made.

Heat a wok over low to medium heat for 1 minute. Place a double pancake in the dry wok and cook for a minute, until it begins to bubble up. (The heat in the dry wok must be carefully controlled. If it is too high, the pancakes will burn.) Turn the pancake over and cook until a few brown spots appear. Remove from the wok and separate into 2 layers. You will have 2 pancakes, each browned lightly on 1 side and white on the other. Repeat until all the dough is used and you have 12 pancakes.

Before serving, steam the pancakes in a stack for 5 to 7 minutes, until soft and hot. Brush the pancake with hoisin sauce, place the chicken slice in the pancake, add some scallion, and fold up the bottom to create an envelope closed on 3 sides but open at the top. Serve immediately.

Hoisin Sauce:

1/3 cup sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon Shao-Hsing wine or sherry

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Cantonese Fried Chicken

Poaching Liquid:

3 whole eight-star anise

1/4 dried tangerine skin (about 2 inches long)

3 cinnamon sticks

1 slice ginger, 1-inch long, lightly smashed

10 cups cold water

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup Chinese white rice wine or gin

1 whole nutmeg

1 whole chicken (3 1/2 pounds), cleaned thoroughly and dried

Coating:

1 1/2 tablespoons honey melted with 3 tablespoons boiling water

1 1/2 teaspoons Shao-Hsing wine or sherry

1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese white rice vinegar

3/4 teaspoons cornstarch

6 cups peanut oil (for frying)

Combine the poaching ingredients in a large pot (preferably an oval Dutch oven) and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Raise the heat to high and return to a boil. Place the chicken in the pot, breast side-up. Cover. When the pot begins to boil, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken over and repeat the process.

Turn off the heat and allow the chicken to sit in the liquid, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove the chicken to a rack that has been set into a platter and allow to drain. Pierce the skin with a fork to help the draining. Discard all the ingredients from the pot. Reserve poaching liquid for later use.

Mix the coating ingredients, and with a pastry brush, coat the chicken thoroughly with the mixture. Allow the chicken to dry completely, about 6 hours. During this time, turn the chicken, taking care not to mar the coating. (An electric fan can reduce the drying time by half.)

Heat a wok over high heat for a minute. Add the peanut oil and heat it to 375 degrees F. Using a large Chinese strainer, lower the chicken into the oil, breast side up, and deep-fry for 3 minutes. Use a ladle to pour oil over the chicken to ensure uniformity in frying. Turn the chicken over by inserting a wooden spoon in its cavity, and deep-fry for another 3 minutes, ladling the oil as before. Repeat until the chicken is golden brown. Turn off the heat. Remove the chicken and allow it to drain. Place the chicken on a chopping board and slice the meat and skin together into pieces 1 by 2 inches.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


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